Pythagoras, Cholent, and Tznius (Modesty)

May 20th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth
Pythagorus had a lot of influence for a man who probably never existed. The Pythagoreans invented their founder, including the manner of his death. Pyhthagoras had a strong revulsion to beans. He would definitely never have eaten Shabbat afternoon Cholent, and not because of its natural effects on the stomach, but because beans are not Tznius – not appropriate for a modest person: (Please do not read on if you are sensitive.) Bean may have been an Egyptian slang word for testicle. The Christian Bishop Hippolytus, in his Refutation of All Heresies (especially thefoundationstone.org) wrote that if beans are chewed and then left in the sun, they emit the smell of semen. Very not Tznius! There’s more! If one takes the bean in flower and buries it in the earth and, in a few days, digs it up: “It will have the appearance of something immodest.”

It seems that Pythagoras was very strict about Tznius: When running from the Syracusans during the war with Arigentum, he escaped because his followers formed a bridge over a fire with their bodies, only to be caught because he would not escape through a field of beans: not tznius! That’s commitment.

Even the great philosophers, if they truly existed, had their foibles.

Lately, I have been wondering if the manner in which we teach Tznius has become one of the foibles of certain religious communities.

I repeat: “The manner in which we teach the laws of Tznius.” I do not mean the laws of personal dignity.

If a teacher publicly humiliates a young girl for wearing a school uniform that is too tight; is she not stuck at Pythagoras’ field of beans? Is it Tznius – modesty to most – dignity to me – to humiliate someone? Did the “laws” of Tznius not just override the biblical commandments to love others, to rebuke in an effective manner, to not embarrass someone, to copy the ways of God in personal attributes, to avoid arrogance and numerous others? Is that public rebuke not a tergiversation (I wanted to use a word I learned today – not too modest, but hopefully dignified,) of all the lessons of Jewish law and thought?

I open this “blog” to you: How do you suggest we teach the concept of Tznius and its laws?

Please allow me one more reflection on this topic: I met a non-observant man this week who commented that he never understood the concept of Kedusha – Holiness – until he met a group of Satmar women. He used to laugh at their hats and dress. After one conversation he understood the concept of Holiness at least he sensed it. These were women who were untouchable simply by virtue of who they are as human beings. I can picture Reb Yoelish zt”l smiling with great pride.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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